I grew up in a household full of pets, but I have always been a cat person. Our dogs and I were always more like roommates who didn’t really talk. When I was six years old, I begged my parents for my own cat and was eventually rewarded with a fluffy orange Manx who repeatedly peed on my bed and bit my face while I was sleeping. In spite of those hurdles, I bonded immediately with Jubilee and the many cats who followed, and I’ve been a cat lady every since.
Dogs are different. They frequently smell bad, jump on people, and I really, really do not want them to ever lick me, but they always do. About 80 percent of the time I tell someone that their dog is adorable, I am just being polite. (The rest of the time it’s a puppy or a Pug. If it’s a pug puppy, I’m too excited and can’t get any words out at all.) Your dog is fine. It’s a dog. Please don’t lick me, dog. That’s disgusting.
While my feelings about dogs are lukewarm, my feelings about making some extra money to pay my bills are red hot. And that’s how I ended up dog-sitting for a German Shepherd mix. Here’s how it went.
I arrive at the apartment. The dog won’t stop moving. Is he on some sort of uppers? It’s either that or he has to pee. We go outside and he pees once, and then we walk around and he pees on everything he sees. Where is all the pee coming from? Did he save some for this purpose? Do dogs have a second bladder for recreational peeing? I make a mental note to look this up on Dogster later.
After he has peed on everything in the neighborhood, we head inside and I carefully read the pet care directions left for me. There is a list of commands he follows. The idea of telling an animal what to do seems weird to me, so I don’t. Maybe I could be the cool aunt who lets him break the rules when his parents aren’t home. I give him a treat without asking him to sit.
Dog poop is disgusting. I know, cats poop, too. They poop in my apartment. My cat, Olive, even poops on the floor a few times a week, and there was a five-month period where she did it up to four times a day. (That’s a story for another time.) But I swear it doesn’t smell this bad. And, most importantly, I use a scoop to clean it up.
I get that, if I’m thinking rationally, it’s not gross to pick up dog poop with a plastic bag because you’re not actually touching poop. Except it feels like you’re touching poop. And it’s still warm. Because it just came out of a dog’s butt. And it smells terrible. I gag four times the first time I do it. I find myself wishing the dog would get constipated.
I am settling in for the night, turning on the TV (there’s cable, which I’ve never had) and snacking on some tortilla chips. The dog is staring at my tortilla chips sadly and whimpering. The whimpering noise is making my show way less enjoyable, and I am not interested in sharing my chips. If my cat, Olive, were there and she wanted a chip she would just get it, which would be annoying, but at least she has some dignity. The whining is just embarrassing. I wonder whether there’s a command to get him to stop whining. I try, “Have some self-respect!” It doesn’t work.
While I’m watching TV again, the dog tries to jump into my lap. “Stop trying to be a cat!” is also not an effective command.
We go to the local dog park. There are tons of dogs running around, a bunch of people sitting around chatting, and one woman who seems to have taken on the role of canine activity leader. She is throwing a slobbery tennis ball for the dogs to catch and making sure her own dog does a good job sharing. When the dog I’m taking care of refuses to give up the ball so the other dogs can have a turn, I realize I don’t know what to say to him to give it back to her. Obviously I should have studied those commands. Give? Drop it? Please relinquish the ball because I believe other dogs would like a turn? He’s not my dog, I explain, embarrassed of his bad behavior. Barely know him, really. Somehow she gets him to drop the ball. She clearly speaks dog.
We hang out at the dog park for a while, and people keep talking to me. Dog people keep paying the dog compliments. I reply awkwardly with something along the lines of, “Uh, he’s not mine, but your dog is also … good … and a dog.” I don’t particularly enjoy strangers talking to me. This is why I’m a cat person. I can just stay in my apartment with my cats and never ever leave or talk to anyone until I eventually die in my sleep and the cats eat my body. No socializing necessary.
On our last day together, we return to the dog park. I actually remember to bring a ball this time. Other dogs quickly borrow it and I give up on getting it back; I don’t have the skills to sweet talk it out of a strange dog’s mouth like yesterday’s activity leader. I figure balls are cheap.
My time with the dog was fine, I guess. I wouldn’t say we’re friends now, but perhaps we are warm acquaintances. I’m pretty sure he spooned me while I slept once, so maybe we’re a bit more than that. But I still think my cats are better bedmates, and they never force me to get up at 7 a.m. to take them outside. They just jump on me and run around my bedroom like maniacs when the sun rises until I feed them, so that’s — maybe better. The most important thing is, they smell better than dogs, unless they get poop stuck in their fur. Aren’t cats the best?